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LABELS: Albany
WORKS: Resurrection
PERFORMER: Scott Hendricks, Joyce DiDonato; Houston Grand Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Patrick Summers
Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection tells the story of a Russian aristocrat who re-encounters the girl he ruined when a young man, and in trying to save her from a Siberian prison discovers in himself a new love for humanity. Turned soon after its publication into a verismo opera by Franco Alfano, it has now been adapted by Laura Harrington into a neat two-act structure, with effective use of flashbacks. The score by the American composer Tod Machover requires a large cast, a medium-sized orchestra and electronics, sometimes distracting but mostly well integrated. The vocal-writing does not always find the right conversational tone (for example in the inflection of questions), but achieves some touching flights of lyricism. The overall impression left by the work, however, is of its huge and sometimes inexplicable variations of style, with stretches of pounding repeated rhythms, a crowded modernist prison scene, a peasant choral dance like something out of Gloriana, a Monteverdian love duet and a creeping heavenly-choirs sentimentality which trivialises the potentially powerful conclusion. The recording is a mix-down by the composer from the first run of performances in Houston in 1999, with the baritone Scott Hendricks and the mezzo Joyce DiDonato leading an exceptionally strong cast. Anthony Burton